“You must not be agitated, darling; there’s nothing. You have been asleep, and I suppose you have had a dream. Were you asleep?”
Lady Haworth had caught her sister fast by the arm with both hands, and was looking wildly in her face.
“Have you heard nothing?” she asked, again looking towards the wall of the room, as if she expected to hear a voice through it.
“Nonsense, darling; you are dreaming still. Nothing; there has been nothing to hear. I have been awake ever since; if there had been anything to hear, I could not have missed it. Come, sit down. Sip a little of this water; you are nervous, and over-tired; and tell me plainly, like a good little soul, what is the matter; for nothing has happened here; and you ought to know that the Three Nuns is the quietest house in England; and I’m no witch, and if you won’t tell me what’s the matter, I can’t divine it.”
“Yes, of course,” said Mary, sitting down, and glancing round her wildly. “I don’t hear it now; you don’t?”
“Do, my dear Mary, tell me what you mean,” said Lady Walsingham kindly but firmly.
Lady Haworth was holding the still untasted glass of water in her hand.
“Yes, I’ll tell you; I have been so frightened! You are right; I had a dream, but I can scarcely remember anything of it, except the very end, when I wakened. But it was not the dream; only it was connected with what terrified me so. I was so tired when I went to bed, I thought I should have slept soundly; and indeed I fell asleep immediately; and I must have slept quietly for a good while. How long is it since I left you?”
“More than an hour.”
“Yes, I must have slept a good while; for I don’t think I have been ten minutes awake. How my dream began I don’t know. I remember only that gradually it came to this: I was standing in a recess in a panelled gallery; it was lofty, and, I thought, belonged to a handsome but old-fashioned house. I was looking straight towards the head of a wide staircase, with a great oak banister. At the top of the stairs, as near to me, about, as that window there, was a thick short column of oak, on top of which was a candlestick. There was no other light but from that one candle; and there was a lady standing beside it, looking down the stairs, with her back turned towards me; and from her gestures I should have thought speaking to people on a lower lobby, but whom from my place I could not see. I soon perceived that this lady was in great agony of mind; for she beat her breast and wrung her hands every now and then, and wagged her head slightly from side to side, like a person in great distraction. But one word she said I could not hear. Nor when she struck her hand on the banister, or stamped, as she seemed to do in her pain, upon the floor, could I hear any sound. I found myself somehow waiting upon this lady, and was watching her with awe and sympathy. But who she was I knew not, until turning towards me I plainly saw Janet’s face, pale and covered with tears, and with such a look of agony as—O God!—I can never forget.”